John S. Ott
Department of History
Portland State University
HST 453/553 - The Medieval City


250 points / 25%
Due in class between Tuesday, October 25, and Tuesday, November 1 (inclusive)

General guidelines

Late paper policy

Late papers will be accepted until November 28. Exemptions from the late paper policy and/or paper extensions will be given only in cases of genuine and demonstrated need, and only in advance of the paper due date. Students are directly responsible for ensuring that hard copies of their papers get safely into my hands. I will accept only hard copies of papers, although you may e-mail your paper to me as an attachment in order to verify the date on which it was completed (in the case of papers submitted after the due date), with the expectation that you will furnish me the hard copy as soon as possible.

Late papers will be deducted 3 points (on a scale of 100, so 7.5 points on a scale of 250) per day, including weekends.

Also, the following conditions apply:


In the course to date, we have examined the characteristics, development, descriptions, and morphology of late antique, early, and high medieval cities (from Antiquity down to about 1150) from a variety of perspectives, emphasizing their importance as symbolic and monumental spaces, as multi-faceted social entities (communities of citizens, inhabitants, traders, subjects, etc.), as nodes of patronage and commerce, as built environments with a specific set of physical characteristics, as political centers, and as geographical and territorial centers. For your essay, using a minimum of five sources we've read in class (see above), one of which must be Galbert of Bruges, I would like you to consider one of the following two questions:

(1) In what ways, and to what extent, were European and Mediterranean cities prior to 1200 integrated into the broader social, political, cultural, and economic worlds around them? Were they generators or transmitters of broader social change, reflectors of wider social change, both? What did being a citizen (cives) in an urbs or civitas entail in the premodern world? What values were attached to this status? You are encouraged to examine and compare the role(s) and condition(s) of cities over time (for example, cities from prior to the fourth century C.E. with those from 400-900 C.E. or 950-1150) C.E. Be mindful that some cities -- Rome, for example -- might be atypical in terms of their development, scale, and economic roles.

(2) In what ways were cities recognized as privileged spaces in the wider early medieval landscape? What forms did that privilege -- or sense of privilege -- assume? What factors seem to have contributed most to the formation / foundation of these privileges, and how was the sense of the urban community as a privileged space expressed by the residents of medieval towns?